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Wednesday, June 25, 2014


George Wenschhof
When the absentee ballots are finally counted, the primary turnout in Maryland will fall way short of what I had predicted to be a low 35%.  Sadly, it was common to see lots of campaign signs at polling locations and few voters.
The move of the primary date from September to June surely impacted turnout.  But, as I pointed out in my column Monday, the ongoing gerrymandering of districts of the political party in power, the unregulated amount of money in politics and the difficult process for a viable third party to become established, all play a significant part in voter apathy and their lost of trust in government.
There were no big surprises across the state with Lt. Governor Anthony Brown winning the Democratic nomination for governor of the state.  He will face Republican Larry Hogan as he campaigns to become the first African American governor of Maryland and the third in the nation.
The good news for Brown is both of his opponents; state delegate Heather Mizeur and Attorney General Doug Gansler spoke in their concession speeches how they will help ensure a victory for Brown in November.
It would be wise for the Brown campaign to find a prominent role for both to play in the general election and if successful in November, a position in his administration.
State senator Brian Frosh, the most experienced and qualified candidate, came from behind in early polling to convincingly win the Democratic nod for Attorney General.
Likeable and effective Democratic state Comptroller Peter Franchot, who decided against a run for Governor, will be favored to win easily in November.  One of the three members of the state’s powerful Board of Public Works, he is known to speak his mind, especially when it comes to spending taxpayer money effectively.
In one unexpected result, Senate minority leader David Brinkley (R-district 4) was crushed by state delegate Michael Hough.  Hough, who received 68% of the vote, used the tea party playbook of negative campaigning, primarily accusing Brinkley of not being a conservative.
Hough will face a spirited battle from Democrat Dan Rupli in the general election, but Rupli will need help from disgruntled Brinkley supporters in the district that has a heavy Republican voter registration.
Ike Leggett beat back a challenge for former county executive Doug Duncan with a 45% – 32% win in the Democratic primary in his bid to continue as county executive.  Leggett is heavily favored to win in November.
State delegate Tom Hucker(D) leads by 217 votes over Evan Glass(D) in the Democratic District 5 Montgomery County council primary.  Hucker should withstand absentee counting to win that contest.
In Frederick County, voters had their first opportunity to vote for county executive and county council as they move to implement charter government.
Incumbent Frederick board of county commissioners president Blaine Young (R) narrowly won the Republican primary with 53%, despite his campaign spending heavily against two candidates; David Gray and Mark Sweadner, who did little campaigning and spent little money.
This sets up the anticipated battle between Democrat Jan Gardner and Blaine Young over who will become the first executive for Frederick County.
If, past numbers are a reliable guide, look to see voter turnout in November exceed 60%.
Stay tuned.

Monday, June 23, 2014


George Wenschhof
After a week of early voting opportunity, Maryland voters have one last chance to cast their ballot on Tuesday June 24.  Polls across the state will be open from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
Unfortunately, apathy continues to prevail and the anticipated turnout is expected to be low.  If, I were a betting man, I would predict a turnout around 35%.
Why turnout is expected to be low is an important discussion and one that needs to happen, not just in Maryland, but across the country.
In Maryland, the moving of the primary date from early September to June, after school is out will be questioned.
However, looking at past primary turnout in Maryland reveals a less than 40% turnout is commonplace.
In light of a full week of early voting with multiple polling locations statewide, if low turnout does result, a more in depth review must take place.
Underlying low turnout in America is likely the result of an overall distrust in government.
State legislatures, dominated by Republicans or Democrats have been gerrymandering districts to favor their respective party for decades.
The resulting “safe” seat ensures their party is represented in state legislatures and in congress.
Often, the low turnout in primaries is heavily made up of engaged activists who are motivated to vote.
These small number of progressive or conservative activists determine the winner in the primary and with the seat considered “safe” that candidate often goes on to win the general election.
The result has been a gridlocked and polarized congress with elected Democrats and Republicans strongly infused with ideology.
Absent today in Congress, is the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a pragmatic group of representatives that were strong when President Bill Clinton was in office.  It was the DLC along with the shrewdness of Clinton, who helped move his agenda forward in a Republican congress.
The strategy used by many presidential candidates to run in the primary to the left if you are a Democrat and run to the right if you are a Republican with the candidates then delicately moving closer to the center as they campaign in the general election, when more voters weigh in, has become commonplace.
Today, restoring belief and faith in government is paramount to restoring democracy.
One step toward restoring faith would be to end politicians determining their voters.  Nonpartisan committees should be established by legislatures in all states across the country to determine redistricting, if called for by the census.
Another signal of the distrust in government is the fastest growing segment of voters across the country is unaffiliated voters.
This has been going on for some time now, yet a viable third party, prevalent in most other representative democracies across the world, is unable to take hold in the United States.
Making it easier for a third party to become established should be examined seriously with recommendations implemented.
The staggering amount of money in politics is the third area that must be addressed.  Political committees, emboldened by recent Supreme Court decisions are pumping unprecedented sums of money into races all over the country.
The ability of those with wealth to have more influence on an election than those who are poor, tears at the very core of democracy, where one vote should not be more powerful than another.
History teaches us representative democracy is not easy and will often be tested.  However, the U.S. constitution fortunately offers the best framework for representative democracy that exists today.
Working within that framework to restore trust and belief in voters is also vital.
Establishing nonpartisan committees to handle redistricting in states across the country, providing an easier path to establish a viable third party and getting the money out of politics would be an excellent start at restoring trust.
Maybe then, voters would begin electing leaders who are able to bring Americans together to develop a shared vision and sustainable future for local communities and the country.
Stay tuned.

Monday, June 16, 2014


George Wenschhof
Candidates are working hard making their final appeal to voters prior to the rapidly approaching June 24 primary election in Maryland. At the same time, some voters are weighing in at early voting polling locations across the state where they can cast their ballots through Thursday June 19.
When the votes are counted, in what is expected to be a low turnout, look to see Lt. Governor Anthony Brown prevail over Attorney General Doug Gansler and delegate Heather Mizeur in the Democratic primary election for Governor.
It is also likely Brown, will win with a plurality of the vote and not a majority.  In a recent Baltimore Sun survey, Brown had a commanding lead over his competitors, but received only 41%.  Maryland is not a state that requires a majority vote, so there will be no runoff election.
Mizeur surprised many by running arguably the best campaign among the three front running Democratic candidates for governor.  She was consistent in all of the forums and stayed out of the bickering that was taking place between Gansler and Brown.
Knowing there was ground to be made up, Gansler’s campaign decided early to go after Brown, criticizing him for the botched launch of the state exchange for the Affordable Care Act and for implementing 40 tax hikes during the Governor Martin O’Malley/Brown administration.
Brown, with the backing of O’Malley and the state Democratic establishment, played it cautious throughout the primary.  Knowing he had a sizable lead, the Brown campaign decided to play it safe, without proposing any bold or new ideas.  Instead, they were comfortable running on the record of the past 8 years under the O’Malley/Brown administration.
A legacy many Democrats are proud of.  Passage of The Dream Act, repeal of the death penalty, increasing the minimum wage, gay marriage, and medical marijuana are a few of the landmark bills that were passed under the O’Malley/Brown administration.
Unfortunately for Gansler, his attacks on the health care roll out and tax hikes sounded like remarks coming from Republicans and not a fellow Democrat. Sure enough, the campaign for Larry Hogan who is the likely winner in the Republican primary for governor just began running television ads mirroring what Gansler has been saying.
Lost during the campaign attacks was the support Gansler gave to Barrack Obama when he was running for president and The Affordable Care Act and his belief that everyone deserves health care.  The strong supportive positions Gansler has taken over the years on many issues dear to Democrats and the battles he undertook on their behalf seemed to get fogged over in the campaign haze.
The new and fresh voice of Heather Mizeur, along with her never ending energy propelling her campaigning statewide has captured the support of many progressive Maryland Democrats.
Never expected to serious compete, the first openly gay candidate for Governor in Maryland has surprised many and will end up battling Gansler for second place.
Mizeur’s call for the legalization and regulation of marijuana is actually based on very sound reasoning.  With only two states, Colorado and Washington having passed similar laws, perhaps her call is premature.
On the other hand, legalization would not only save money on enforcement and incarceration, it would create a revenue stream for state coffers. Her call to bring back the millionaire tax, speed up the increase of the minimum wage and address income inequality should be acted on.
Gansler’s concern that a recent Gallup poll showed 47% of Marylanders say they want to leave the state is a valid concern and one that needs to be addressed immediately.  As is his call to address the achievement gap between white and minority students in the state.
Economic and community development, job creation and addressing income inequality should be a major emphasis for the next governor of Maryland. A strong, effective public education system and affordable housing for all also deserve attention from the next Governor of Maryland.  Continued focus on the environment and protection of the Chesapeake Bay is paramount.
The challenges are big for the next governor of Maryland.  The Anthony Brown/Ken Ulman team has the experience and skills to meet these challenges.  Winning with a plurality vote, it would be sensible to include in a major role, both Attorney General Doug Gansler and delegate Heather Mizeur in the general election campaign.
Furthermore, should Brown prevail in November to become Governor, it would be wise for him and a benefit for Maryland if he found a productive role for each to play in his administration.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


George Wenschhof
With only two weeks until the primary election, former City of Frederick alderwomen, Karen Young and Carol Krimm appear to be the front runners among four Democratic candidates vying for the two open Maryland state delegate seats in district 3-A.
However, look to see Democrat Roger Wilson strongly compete with Young and Krimm. Newcomer Nicholas Bouquet may possibly play a bit of the spoiler in what promises to be a close Democratic primary.  How many votes Bouquet receives and who he pulls votes from could have an impact.
Roger Wilson would bring a fresh voice from Frederick County to Annapolis. His professional private sector experience combined with his strong commitment on improving jobs, education, and transportation will make him competitive in this election.
Taking a look inside the Democratic primary and adding intrigue is the endorsement of Krimm and Wilson by retiring Democratic state delegate Galen Clagett.  There is no love lost between Galen and Karen Young who went head to head last year in the Democratic primary for mayor of The City of Frederick.  Young easily won that primary with 60% of the vote before losing to Republican incumbent mayor Randy McClement.
Much to the chagrin of many city Democratic voters, Clagett publicly endorsed McClement after losing to Young in the primary.
Krimm was the legislative aide to Clagett and she is who he promoted early as the one to take his seat when he announced he would not be running for reelection several years ago.
Further stirring the pot is the local Democratic voter dislike for Frederick board of county commissioner President Blaine Young and what some refer to as “Young fatigue” by voters.
Some Karen Young supporters fear that the average voter will associate Karen with Blaine, whose positions on issues couldn’t be more different.  Karen is married to Blaine’s father Ron Young.
Others believe with four Young’s on the ballot, (Ron Young(D) – state senator district 3, Karen Young(D) – state delegate district 3-A, Blaine Young(R) – Frederick County Executive, and Brad Young(nonpartisan) – Board of Education), there will be a backlash by voters resulting from “Young fatigue”.
More likely, the familiarity of the Young name will help because name recognition is golden in politics.
So, party sparring between the Young and Clagett camps will probably have more impact on the outcome of the primary than any voter fatigue with the Young name.
Wilson may well benefit from this infighting by being the second choice among supporters of Krimm and Young earning him one of the two spots.
The recent disclosure that two members of the Frederick Area Committee for Transportation (FACT) wrote and sent a letter on FACT letterhead to the Frederick board of commissioners favoring the planned Monrovia Town Center development may also impact this race.
Carol Krimm, a member of FACT, disclosed the committee had not voted on sending the letter, but stopped short of condemning the action, saying instead, it was a matter to be taken up by the board at their next meeting.
Whether this issue gets traction and impacts this election remains to be seen.  The possible spin could be praising Carol for bringing to light several members acted without board permission or criticizing her for not calling for harsher action to be taken against the members who acted without board approval.
Meanwhile, Democratic voters in district 3-A are fortunate to have four qualified candidates running for the two slots.
They would be well served voting for a fresh voice in Roger Wilson.  In Karen Young and Carol Krimm, voters can be assured both know their way around Annapolis and will work hard to ensure legislation that was needed made its way through the sausage grinder bill making process to final passage.  Up and coming Nicholas Bouquet is one who understands politics and while he may end up short in this attempt, should stay involved in politics.
Karen Young displayed her legislative strength in the last Maryland General Assembly session when she worked hard to successfully garner support of state legislators for the passage of amendments to medical marijuana legislation.  Her action spurred after meeting local resident Shannon Moore whose 3 year old twin boys suffer from Miller-Dieker Syndrome that causes severe life threatening seizures.  Moore’s research had shown medical marijuana was helpful in many cases in reducing seizures.
As the legislative aide to former state delegate Sue Hecht and Galen Clagett, Krimm has the experience as well as the skill set to move into this position without a learning curve.
The two Republicans running for state delegate in district 3-A are board of county commissioners Paul Smith and Victoria Wilkins.  They are running unopposed and will face the two winners in the Democratic primary in the general election held November 4.
The primary election is June 24.  Early voting begins June 12.
Stay tuned.

Monday, June 9, 2014


George Wenschhof
Plan to take advantage of the early voting opportunity in the Maryland primary election.
Voters across the state will be able to cast their ballots beginning Thursday June 12 through Thursday June 19 from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Maryland state board of elections has a great link here to help you find your early voting location in Maryland.
In Frederick County, there are three locations – see below.
On June 24, the day of the primary election, voters can vote from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM at their regular polling locations.
Frederick Senior Center
1440 Taney Avenue
Frederick, MD 21702
Thurmont Regional Library
76 East Moser Road
Thurmont, MD 21788
Urbana Regional Library
9020 Amelung Street
Frederick, MD 21704

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


George Wenschhof
In the last televised debate (watch video below) among the front running Democratic candidates for Governor of Maryland, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown did not have a good night, once again battling a hoarse voice and awkwardly exchanging barbs with Attorney General Doug Gansler.
Mizeur stayed on her populist message, consistently calling for a living wage and saying income inequality is one of the most pressing issues today.  Mizeur also pointed out she was the only candidate accepting public campaign financing.
Gansler saved his best performance for the last televised debate, looking relaxed and comfortable delivering his platform. In his closing remarks he spoke of how he would stand up to the special interests and lobbyists, using a story about a young boy Jazz, saying he would do it for him.
While Lt. Governor Brown would often say he had a 3 or 5 point plan for this issue or that issue, he lost connection by not saying specifically this is what he was going to do.  When asked directly by Maryland Public Television moderator Jeff Salkin, about his role in the failed rollout of the health care exchange, Brown had some answer about not serving on the committee that actually had the responsibility for the rollout.
Meanwhile, Gansler was quick to criticize the closed door manner in which the first provider and then the replacement provider was chosen to implement the Connecticut model.  At the same time, Gansler was able to connect his support for President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, an area he had been weak in previously by saying health care was a right.
All of the candidates stressed the need to create jobs with Gansler pointing to the recent Gallup poll showing 47% of Marylanders want to leave the state.  Gansler used the poll results to reinforce his criticism of the 40 tax increases imposed during the Governor Martin O’Malley/Lt. Governor Brown administration. Gansler agreeed with Mizeur on the need to close corporate tax loopholes and continued his call for a reduction in the corporate tax rate.  Gansler also used for the first time a populist line where he said “it was time to change the culture of Annapolis”.
Mizeur called for the reinstatement of the millionaire tax and managed to slip in her call for a nonpartisan commission to handle redistricting to get away from the crazy gerrymandering taking place today.
All the candidates agreed on the need to protect the Chesapeake Bay with Mizeur being the most succinct on how she would do so.  She stated the need to rebuild the oyster population and protect more bayside land.  Mizeur also said it was time to get serious in regard to chicken farms that are responsible for 20% of the pollution in the Bay and agricultural pollution and runoff.
Mizeur also took this opportunity to point out she opposed the Cove Point liquefaction gas expansion and that she has been a long term advocate against the use of “fracking” to extract natural gas in the state.
All were for universal pre-k with Gansler quick to point out the funding that was supposed to come from legalized gambling, had been taken out.
There are just three weeks left to the June 24 primary election and the last agreed upon debate among these candidates will a radio debate on Thursday from 8:00 – 9:30 AM ET on Larry Young’s WOLB AM radio show.
There have been no recent polls released with previous polls prior to the debates showing Brown leading, Gansler second and Mizeur a distant third.  However, the polls also indicated 40% of Democratic voters were undecided.
Lt. Governor Brown has not helped his standing with his debate performances to date. Delegate Heather Mizeur has been the most consistent and has mostly stayed above the bickering between Gansler and Brown.  Gansler had his best performance last night.
Stay tuned.